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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts • Page 213
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts • Page 213

The Boston Globei
Boston, Massachusetts
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THE BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE DECEMBER 31, 1989 South 9 SOlffilWEEKLY Harvard coach looks beyond winning Delaney-Smith has helped high school, college women with off-court lives, too Westwood girls' basketball builds a winning tradition FJESTWOOD-If something works, stick with it I Tom Hughes, coach of the Westwood High School 'l girls' basketball team, is not about to change a thing. 1 I As of last week, his team was 2-0 and riding a 258-game Li Tri-Valley League unbeaten streak. If' vi WMt ySSm high school at Sacred Heart of Newton and in 1967 became the first Massachusetts girl to score 1,000 points in her career. But her basketball career ended when she decided to attend Bridgewater State College, which did not have a women's team. 'A physical education major, Delaney-Smith wanted to be a swim coach, and when she got that position at Westwood, she also became the girls' basketball coach.

"I fell in love with basketball," says Delaney-Smith. After six years, she decided coaching both was too much, and she chose basketball. To get to that point, GLOBE PHOTO PAM BERRY Harvard women's basketball coach Kathy Delaney-Smith has led her team to Ivy League titles in 1986 and 1988. Like organizing activities to raise her own air fare to the reception in Mississippi, when she was chosen national high school coach of the year. Like personal growth and commitment It was important to Delaney-Smith to be involved with her athletes off the basketball court as well as on.

She made sure they could attend summer camps, and at the camps she ran she tried to show them they were important to her as individuals by providing individual attention. She helped her athletes in other ways besides honing their basketball skills. She involved herself with their college search process. She assisted with everything, from resumes to meetings with coaches. She feels there is a great deal of room for growth for women's basketball.

She grew up at a time of discrimination for women and feels there is still bias in coaching. "Men don't appreciate women's basketball," says Delaney-Smith. But she realizes that battle cannot be won overnight "By being the best coach I can be, to develop my athletes to be the best athletes they can be, will make its mark." According to Delaney-Smith, if women's involvement in sports is a positive experience, after school they will still care about women's sports. Involvement in programs forms a network, and it is this women's network that needs to grow. Support for the girls' basketball program was far from overwhelming when Delaney-Smith became coach at Westwood in 1971.

"There was a tremendous need for someone to care about them as athletes, and I guess I was the right person in the right place at the right time," recalls Delaney-Smith. "They wanted it, and they worked for it. They were 0-11 my first year, and four years later they went undefeated." The transformation was not instantaneous. One of her biggest hurdles was a lack of knowledge about the sport She played six-player basketball in In its 17th year, the Westwood girls' program has a 94 percent overall winning percentage. This includes two state titles, in 1979 and 1985.

It also encompasses participation in eight sectional finals five of which they won and playing in the state tournament six times. Much of the credit can be attributed to the phenomenal CYO and Saturday youth programs in the town. According to Hughes, the people who started these programs in the early '70's are still active in it The people of Westwood continue to be very involved. The girls on his varsity team are active in these youth programs as well. They serve as coaches to children as young as elementary school.

"It's a tradition, a passing of the torch," says "It means a lot to the younger kids. They really look up to the older kids. They're their role models." Hughes feels that there is no better overall program around and that Westwood's reputation affects its opponents. "Kids from other teams come into the gym and are awed by the banner listing all our undefeated seasons," Hughes says. "That admiration and respect gives us a real edge." Ted Freeley, Dover-Sherborn girls' basketball coach, has Erst-hand knowledge of Westwood's intimidation factor.

"The girls get really pumped up to play Westwood. I try to make sure they're not too awed by them," Freeley says. "I have to tell them that Westwood girls are not superwomen, they're just players." Freeley feels that Westwood's biggest advantage may be its depth. While many teams can keep up with Westwood's starting five, the Westwood bench is usually as good as the starters. Says Freeley, "These girls have been playing together since the fourth grade.

They're already good basketball players by the time they get to high school." Also contributing to Westwood's success is its history of great coaches, starting with Kathy Delaney-Smith, then Sue Peters and now Hughes. "Delaney-Smith is a great organizer," says Hughes. This is evident in the continuing success of the youth programs she started in Westwood, as well as the high school program. The Tri-Valley League winning streak began in 1973. As for this season, Hughes feels his team should do well.

Although young, the players are aggressive and quick. Says Hughes, "What we lack in skill, we make up for in enthusiasm." What about The Streak? "This year's seniors don't want to be responsible for answering the question, When will Westwood be beaten in the says Hughes. "It's great incentive it gives the kids something to shoot for." Because of declining enrollment and competition from other winter sports, there has been a decrease in the number of girls coming out for the team. Freeley feels this may be a big factor in Westwood's eventual defeat But for now, Freeley says, "you almost have to play a perfect game to beat them." CHERYL ROSENBERG By Cheryl Rosenberg SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE It is only 11 a.m., but the table is already set with shiny white dishes and her best silverware. The sounds of food being prepared emanate from the kitchen.

The house is decorated from mantel to window pane in holiday trappings. Harvard women's basketball coach Kathy Delaney-Smith is tafc ing a break from party preparations in her Newton home. She is sitting on the edge of her seat, looking relaxed but focused. Much as she must have looked while piloting Westwood High's 96-game regular-season winning streak from 1973 to 1979. Much as she must have looked while leading the Crimson to Ivy League titles in 1986 and 1988.

And much as she must still look while devising out-of-bounds plays on the drive to work. Delaney-Smith is as comfortable on the basketball court as she is in her living room. After eight years as Harvard coach, Delaney-Smith is right where she wants to be. "I never wanted to be a college coach," she remembers with a smile. "I didn't feel that being a college coach would mean I was a better coach.

I still felt there was room for growth at Westwood. I went to the interview because I wanted to. see what a college interview was like." After a state title in 1979 and years of post-season play, it would be hard to imagine what more she could have accomplished at Westwood. "Winning is obviously the most important thing to me, but there are so many other things that go into it that are just as important," Delaney-Smith says. Like equal rights for women athletes.

The day Delaney-Smith received tenure at Westwood, she filed a complaint that the school system had violated Title LX guidelines by not providing equal funding for boys' and girls' sports. The school responded by increasing the funding. symbolized the the women will where the men will carry those she attended clinic after clinic, read book after book and went to camp after camp. "I literally killed myself getting knowledge," she says. "I had no knowledge.

All I did was to care about the girls I coached." According to Tom Hughes, the present girls' coach at Westwood, her dedication paid off. "Kathy has a great deal of knowledge about the game, especially on defenses," says Hughes. "If anyone asks for help, she'd give it in a minute." Delaney-Smith also communicate ed well. "She knows how to speak to kids," says Hughes. "They understand her and respect her." Delaney-Smith realized that a successful program must start with parental support and participation.

This meant Saturday youth and CYO programs and camp. In addition, she held banquets every year for the girls' teams from the 7th through 12th grades. She would show a slide presentation of her teams at each. Under Delaney-Smith, the program flourished. With the support of the parents and eventually the whole town, Westwood High School became and remains a great place to play basketball.

Winning has its pitfalls, though. Delaney-Smith points out the pressure involved with being expected to succeed. At Harvard, womens' basketball had no winning tradition. "It was very funny going from so many people at my gpmes to no one," says Delaney-Smith, who in 1982 went from audiences averaging about 1,500 at Westwood High to Harvard, where there was little sup- For Milton girl, "little hoop fanfare Kerry Curran's signing with BC got little attention port. "The program was not in good shape." Building a following For the first four or five years at Harvard, Delaney-Smith and her staff worked hard to get a following.

They even- threw receptions after -games, buying cookies and making' onion dip. Delaney-Smith said she feels her concern has meant a great deal to her players. "Even the years we were losing I saw a lot of growth and commitment," says Delaney-Smith. "The basketball skills weren't always the best, but I saw other skills." Delaney-Smith feels that the women who come to Harvard are talented in many ways. Because there are no athletic scholarships, there is no pressure to stay on the team for the sake of money.

"If they don't, love basketball, they quit" she says. "I'm finding myself with 10 to 12 players who love basketball." Delaney-Smith says she feels no satisfaction coming off the floor from a game won but played poorly. "When we lose but have played well; it gives me great satisfaction. It sort of makes up for not winning." Not that her record at Harvard is anything to sniff at, winning two Ivy League Championships. "As long I believe there's room for growth, I will stay here," Delaney-Smith says.

"It's not important for me to climb a ladder. Like Harvard probably won't be in a final four, but that doesn't mean that I'm less of a coach than one in the top 10." By John Bisognano SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE iMi; LTON Her situation state of women's basketball. change it But her future may Kerry Curran, in her senior year at: Milton High School, has already broken uvu The Best Just Got Better! He's one of the best and most-respected sportswriters in New England. And now he'll be covering baseball for New England's best newspaper: The Boston Globe. Please join us in welcoming Nick Cafardo to our sports staff.

And don't miss his outstanding baseball writing. From the Hot Stove League to Opening Day ROAD RACES Abington: Colonial Road Runners -Winter Fun Run Series; every Sunday, 1 p.m., Dec. 31 through Feb. meet at the Depot Railroad Station; call 769-4592. FRISBEE Mansfield: Freestyle and Indoor Ultimate At Quaker Middle School gymnasium, East Street 7:30 to 10 p.m.

Tuesdays from Jan. 2 through April 3. Call (508) 880-3060. MARTIAL ARTS Norfolk: Southwood Community Hospital classes Eight-week kara- te course for children and adults begins Jan. 2 at the hospital.

Call (508) 668-0385 or (508) 668-6243. SCUBA DIVING Canton: Classes Start Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Blue Hills Regional Technical School. Fee $239.

Call Get Wet Sports, 341-4800. SKIING MDtOK "On-The-Snow Ski CIMc" -Free beginning and intermediate level alpine sessions are scheduled for 8 and 9 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Blue Hills Ski Area. Skiers must be at least 18 years of age to participate.

Equipment is available for rental at the ski area. To make reservations, call Blue Hills Ski Area, 828-5070. Sponsored by The Boston Globe. Scftuate Lessons Instruction sponsored by Recreation Department runs Jan. 4 to Feb.

1 for people age 7 and up. A bus will pick up participants at 3 p.m. each Thursday in front of Town Hall and will return at 6:50 pjn. Fee is $70 for five lessons and transportation. Ski -rentals are available at $8 per les-son.

Call play four games in Silvio Conte Forum, play, and New England Sports Network four games on cable television. Strong addition Curran should boost this already growing program. Curran, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, holds school records in points assists (198) and steals (272). In a home game against Framingham South last season, the Milton native became the first girl at the school to score 1,000 points. This year, in the season opener, Curran resumed her torrid pace, scorching Natick for 36 points the highest single-game point total ever at Milton 10 steals, nine rebounds and six assists.

In the second game, she scored 33 points and had 12 steals against Norwood. She has always approached sports all out She was the only girl on her Milton Little League baseball team, playing with older brothers Chris and Barry. She pleaded to be allowed to pitch, and her persistence, paid off. Much like it did in the Milton youth basketball program run by Mike Goodless, the high school boys' basketball coach. "I bugged him a lot to lower the age requirement Eventually it paid off, and he changed it from fourth to third grade," she said.

"I guess you could say I was bothersome." Matching words with play She backed her words with her play and style a combination that she has developed into a clean pull-up jumper and a rare degree of aggressiveness. At Milton High, she took up soccer, softball and, of course, hoop. Winning a starting job on the varsity as a freshman, she began her career on a symbolic note when she hit a 40-foot shot just before the halftime buzzer in her first game, She ended up as her team's high scorer with 12 points. "I knew she was going to be a great one," said girls' basketball coach Jack Sullivan. "There are few people that can come in as freshmen and dictate a game.

But she did." She has been in the Bay State Games, AAU tourneys and Junior Olympics. And the offers that trickled in when she was a freshman began pouring in as a junior. Now, signed with BC, Curran can concentrate on a Bay State League title with a team that consists of five senior starters. Christine Bligh, Michelle OToole, Jennifer Burke and Tara Murphy will join Curran in an attempt to reach and win the state championship, something Curran's brother Chris (now at New Hampton Prep) helped accomplish last year when the Milton took the Division 2 title. almost every girls' basketball record at the school.

Yet last month! when she signed a letter of intent to attend Boston College on a full basketball scholarship, no fuss was made; nobody outside Milton and BC seemed to care. That was much unlike the hoopla that surrounded the signing of Duxbury's Bill Curley with BC the same week. So it is with women's basketball. "I think the girls work so hard they feel they are not getting appreciated," said Margo Plotzke, the BC women's basketball coach. "But in women's basketball, you learn to be patient Eventually a good product will come to the people's attention." Said Curran, "I'd rather be more low key about things like that I wasn't insulted." At least things are looking up.

At the Heights, the point guard will join close friend Sarah Behn a much-heralded freshman, who finished her high school career at Foxborough High last year by setting the girls' state career scoring record (2,561 points) while falling one point shy of the overall record, held by Bryan Edwards of Cohasset High, who is now a sophomore at Bd Behn attracted as much attention to women's basketball as anybody before her. When she decided to take her show to BC, it seemed to increase the public's knowledge and perception of women's basketball It is an exciting sport because of its back -to-basics philosophy of crisp passing and disciplined shooting, areas in which Curran excels. "Plotzke said she saw Curran playing AAU ball over the summer; "and I just knew she could play here. She distributes the ball well, she pushes it up the floor, and she takes good shots." Adding Curran to Behn, who is averaging more than 12 points a game after recuperating from a stress fracture in her foot should bring increased attention for the BC women's program. "No question, we're building a successful program right now.

With the attention these kids got in high school, people can now go right up the street and see them play against better competition," said Plotzke, whose team almost iDset second-ranked Stanford early this season. Power Gym, where the women play their games, has been attracting bigger and bigger crowds. This season, (f and right through the i season, the best baseball coverage is in The Boston Globe. die Boston 6lobc P.O. BOX 2378 BOSTON, MA 02107-2378.

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